ICYMI: Trust, Engagement, Mission
In case you missed it: some of my latest articles:
What is the most important character trait for a pastor? A preaching gift? Theological education? Leadership skills? Vision? Communication saavy? A shepherd’s heart?
All of these things are important and essential for the ministry, but none of them will be used effectively if the pastor doesn’t possess the one thing that will determine the rise or fall of his ministry: trust.
Trust matters. When people first walk through the doors of a church, they enter with a bit of fear. Most likely they have had a stressful, busy, difficult week. As pastor Mike Glenn once said, “People use up all of their faith just getting to church on Sunday.”
They want to know: Can I trust the pastor? Can he lead me well? This is especially important in an age of distrust. In the last several decades we’ve seen our venerable institutions fail us: our banks, our government, our religious organizations, our sports leagues, our schools, our media. People are skeptical of leaders at all levels.
Ironically, I think pastors have a unique opportunity to lead in this environment by demonstrating the unique kind of shepherding, nurturing, winsome leadership so absent from all other institutions. But trust can’t be learned in a book. It can’t be taught. It has to be both earned and then practiced.
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Whether we like it or not, the 2016 U.S. Presidential election cycle is upon us. Some greet this with a weary sigh while others, like me, love the drama of another historic moment in America’s story.
Regardless of where you fall on the scale of interest, the most important question is how Christians should conduct themselves during this election season. The world is watching God’s people, not just for how they vote, but for how they act both online and in conversations with family and friends.
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“We are Muslims,” my neighbor told me after I knocked on his door to greet him a few days after his family moved into our neighborhood. “There are some things we hold dear to us,” he explained. “I hope you understand.”
Our families have since become friends, and he and I have engaged in some meaningful conversations about religion. His presence in our Bible-belt city, bursting with immigrant growth from several countries, is a reminder that our communities look vastly different, in every way, from the communities of our parents. Some followers of Christ see this new reality—what some are calling a post-Christian era—as a threat to our way of life. But seen through Great Commission lenses, the rising opposition to Christianity and the influx of other religions presents us with a fresh opportunity to do what we should have been doing all along: sharing the gospel story with new audiences.
What does evangelism look like for Christians in the West in the 21st century? The gospel message is still the same. The mandate to make Jesus known hasn’t changed. And the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives hasn’t abated.
What must change is the way Christians apply the gospel to the culture to which we are called. This means we not only must reconcile ourselves to our new status as a minority, we must embrace the people God is sending into our spheres of influence, forging deep and lasting relationships that allow gospel opportunities. But what does this look like?
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